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Founding Father Quotes on Religion
The following quotations from several
of the Founding Fathers of our Nation are from private correspondence rather
than from public speeches or pronouncements, and thus give a better view
of what they really thought about such things (and what they didn't want
to say to the uneducated, superstitious and misled citizenry complete with
pitchforks, tar, feathers, and a deep and abiding respect for the "mercy"
of the Lord). We can clearly see that they had no intention or desire to
place the new nation under the tyranny of any religion, dogma or theocratic
regime. All their works were to the end of protecting liberty of conscience
and freedom and equality for all mankind.
This page is dedicated to the
Seekers of the World in Love and In Peace.
This page created 12/28/97 in the Spirit of Love by Barefoot
We have Fundamentalists today, insisting
that this nation was founded on Christianity. It was not, although
the moral and ethical values common to many of the
world's religions were espoused in the founding documents. Almost to
a man, the Founding Fathers were Deists, as opposed to Theists, realists
and well educated, opposed to tyranny in any form, whether the tyranny
of secular governments or the tyranny of ecclesiastic theocracies, cults,
orders and sects. The Fundamentalists of all nations would establish tyrannies
over their fellowman, insisting that "their way to God, their way of governance
is the only way".
From the writings of M. Scott Peck,
in his book "Farther along the Road Less Traveled", page 107, is the following:
"How are we to interpret
the Bible? Although they place such importance on it, the fundamentalists,
in my experience, strangely misuse the Bible. Actually the term "Fundamentalist"
is a misnomer. The more proper term is "inerrantists", those who believe
that the Bible is not only the devinely inspired word of God but the actual
transcribed, unaltered word of God, and that it is subject to only one
kind of literal interpretation, namely theirs. Such thinking, to
my mind, only impoverishes the Bible."
In essence and actuality, the "Inerrantists"
of all types, creeds, and politics, both ecclesiastic and secular, would
attempt to establish tyrranies of uniformity based upon their particular
To counter such claims of the "Inerrantists",
and in support of the First Article of Amendments to the Constitution for
the United States, and the inherent right of all mankind to the freedom
of their spiritual convictions, the following quotes of the men most responsible
for the founding and establishment of our Nation, the United States of
America, are presented for your study and enlightenment. They are not presented
as a threat to any persons' particular spiritual beliefs, but in support
and protection of them. It is hoped, however, that each individual will
seek within for an honest appraisal of their own motives for so believing,
and honestly evaluate their practice of the Truth of their particular religion,
their relationship to their Higher Power, with themselves and with their
fellowman everywhere in the world.
First, from the pen of Benjamin
Franklin, printer, writer, philosopher, scientist, statesman and diplomat,
eldest and revered member of the Continental Congress, and signer of both
the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for the United States.
"I think vital religion
has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures
assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought
but what we did." --- Benjamin Franklin, letter to his father, 1738
"I cannot conceive otherwise than
that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise
from us, but that He is even infinitely above it." --- Benjamin Franklin,
from "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion", Nov. 20, 1728
"I wish it (Christianity) were more
productive of good works ... I mean real good works ... not holy-day keeping,
sermon-hearing ... or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments
despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity."---
Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII, p. 75
"If we look back into history for
the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that
have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution.
The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans,
but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of
England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon
the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice
themselves both there (England) and in New England."--- Benjamin Franklin
Secondly, from the pen of
the most active writer and pamphleteer of his time, who almost single handedly
with his writings, fomented the Spirit of Independence in the Citizens
of the 13 Colonies, Thomas Paine, on Deism...
Every person, of whatever
religious denomination he may be, is a DEIST in the first article of his
Creed. Deism, from the Latin word Deus, God, is the belief of a God, and
this belief is the first article of every man's creed.
It is on this article, universally
consented to by all mankind, that the Deist builds his church, and here
he rests. Whenever we step aside from this article, by mixing it with articles
of human invention, we wander into a labyrinth of uncertainty and fable,
and become exposed to every kind of imposition by pretenders to revelation.
The Persian shows the Zend-Avesta
of Zoroaster, the lawgiver of Persia, and calls it the divine law; the
Bramin shows the Shaster, revealed, he says, by God to Brama, and given
to him out of a cloud; the Jew shows what he calls the law of Moses, given,
he says, by God, on the Mount Sinai; the Christian shows a collection of
books and epistles, written by nobody knows who, and called the New Testament;
and the Mahometan shows the Koran, given, he says, by God to Mahomet: each
of these calls itself revealed religion, and the only true Word of God,
and this the followers of each profess to believe from the habit of education,
and each believes the others are imposed upon.
But when the divine gift of reason
begins to expand itself in the mind and calls man to reflection, he then
reads and contemplates God and His works, and not in the books pretending
to be revelation. The creation is the Bible of the true believer in God.
Everything in this vast volume inspires him with sublime ideas of the Creator.
The little and paltry, and often obscene, tales of the Bible sink into
wretchedness when put in comparison with this mighty work.
The Deist needs none of those tricks
and shows called miracles to confirm his faith, for what can be a greater
miracle than the creation itself, and his own existence?
There is a happiness in Deism, when
rightly understood, that is not to be found in any other system of religion.
All other systems have something in them that either shock our reason,
or are repugnant to it, and man, if he thinks at all, must stifle his reason
in order to force himself to believe them.
But in Deism our reason and our
belief become happily united. The wonderful structure of the universe,
and everything we behold in the system of the creation, prove to us, far
better than books can do, the existence of a God, and at the same time
proclaim His attributes.
It is by the exercise of our reason
that we are enabled to contemplate God in His works, and imitate Him in
His ways. When we see His care and goodness extended over all His creatures,
it teaches us our duty toward each other, while it calls forth our gratitude
to Him. It is by forgetting God in His works, and running after the books
of pretended revelation, that man has wandered from the straight path of
duty and happiness, and become by turns the victim of doubt and the dupe
Except in the first article in the
Christian creed, that of believing in God, there is not an article in it
but fills the mind with doubt as to the truth of it, the instant man begins
to think. Now every article in a creed that is necessary to the happiness
and salvation of man, ought to be as evident to the reason and comprehension
of man as the first article is, for God has not given us reason for the
purpose of confounding us, but that we should use it for our own happiness
and His glory.
The truth of the first article is
proved by God Himself, and is universal; for the creation is of itself
demonstration of the existence of a Creator. But the second article, that
of God's begetting a son, is not proved in like manner, and stands on no
other authority than that of a tale.
Certain books in what is called
the New Testament tell us that Joseph dreamed that the angel told him so,
(Matthew i, 20): "And behold the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph,
in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee
Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost."
The evidence upon this article bears
no comparison with the evidence upon the first article, and therefore is
not entitled to the same credit, and ought not to be made an article in
a creed, because the evidence of it is defective, and what evidence there
is, is doubtful and suspicious. We do not believe the first article on
the authority of books, whether called Bibles or Korans, nor yet on the
visionary authority of dreams, but on the authority of God's own visible
works in the creation.
The nations who never heard of such
books, nor of such people as Jews, Christians, or Mahometans, believe the
existence of a God as fully as we do, because it is self-evident. The work
of man's hands is a proof of the existence of man as fully as his personal
appearance would be.
When we see a watch, we have as
positive evidence of the existence of a watchmaker, as if we saw him; and
in like manner the creation is evidence to our reason and our senses of
the existence of a Creator. But there is nothing in the works of God that
is evidence that He begat a son, nor anything in the system of creation
that corroborates such an idea, and, therefore, we are not authorized in
What truth there may be in the story
that Mary, before she was married to Joseph, was kept by one of the Roman
soldiers, and was with child by him, I leave to be settled between the
Jews and Christians. The story however has probability on its side, for
her husband Joseph suspected and was jealous of her, and was going to put
her away. "Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make
her a public example, was going to put her away, privately." (Matt. i,
I have already said that "whenever
we step aside from the first article (that of believing in God), we wander
into a labyrinth of uncertainty," and here is evidence of the justness
of the remark, for it is impossible for us to decide who was Jesus Christ's
But presumption can assume anything,
and therefore it makes Joseph's dream to be of equal anthority with the
existence of God, and to help it on calls it revelation. It is impossible
for the mind of man in its serious moments, however it may have been entangled
by education, or beset by priestcraft, not to stand still and doubt upon
the truth of this article and of its creed.
But this is not all. The second
article of the Christian creed having brought the son of Mary into the
world (and this Mary, according to the chronological tables, was a girl
of only fifteen years of age when this son was born), the next article
goes on to account for his being begotten, which was, that when he grew
a man he should be put to death, to expiate, they say, the sin that Adam
brought into the world by eating an apple or some kind of forbidden fruit.
But though this is the creed of
the Church of Rome, from whence the Protestants borrowed it, it is a creed
which that Church has manufactured of itself, for it is not contained in
nor derived from, the book called the New Testament.
The four books called the Evangelists,
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which give, or pretend to give, the birth,
sayings, life, preaching, and death of Jesus Christ, make no mention of
what is called the fall of man; nor is the name of Adam to be found in
any of those books, which it certainly would be if the writers of them
believed that Jesus was begotten, born, and died for the purpose of redeeming
mankind from the sin which Adam had brought into the world. Jesus never
speaks of Adam himself, of the garden of Eden, nor of what is called the
fall of man.
But the Church of Rome having set
up its new religion, which it called Christianity, invented the creed which
it named the Apostles's Creed, in which it calls Jesus the only son of
God, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary; things of
which it is impossible that man or woman can have any idea, and consequently
no belief but in words; and for which there is no authority but the idle
story of Joseph's dream in the first chapter of Matthew, which any designing
imposter or foolish fanatic might make.
It then manufactured the allegories
in the book of Genesis into fact, and the allegorical tree of life and
the tree of knowledge into real trees, contrary to the belief of the first
Christians, and for which there is not the least authority in any of the
books of the New Testament; for in none of them is there any mention made
of such place as the Garden of Eden, nor of anything that is said to have
But the Church of Rome could not
erect the person called Jesus into a Savior of the world without making
the allegories in the book of Genesis into fact, though the New Testament,
as before observed, gives no authority for it. All at once the allegorical
tree of knowledge became, according to the Church, a real tree, the fruit
of it real fruit, and the eating of it sinful.
As priestcraft was always the enemy
of knowledge, because priestcraft supports itself by keeping people in
delusion and ignorance, it was consistent with its policy to make the acquisition
of knowledge a real sin.
The Church of Rome having done this,
it then brings forward Jesus the son of Mary as suffering death to redeem
mankind from sin, which Adam, it says, had brought into the world by eating
the fruit of the tree of knowledge. But as it is impossible for reason
to believe such a story, because it can see no reason for it, nor have
any evidence of it, the Church then tells us we must not regard our reason,
but must believe, as it were, and that through thick and thin, as if God
had given man reason like a plaything, or a rattle, on purpose to make
fun of him.
Reason is the forbidden tree of
priestcraft, and may serve to explain the allegory of the forbidden tree
of knowledge, for we may reasonably suppose the allegory had some meaning
and application at the time it was invented. It was the practice of the
Eastern nations to convey their meaning by allegory, and relate it in the
manner of fact. Jesus followed the same method, yet nobody ever supposed
the allegory or parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the Prodigal Son,
the ten Virgins, etc., were facts.
Why then should the tree of knowledge,
which is far more romantic in idea than the parables in the New Testament
are, be supposed to be a real tree? The answer to this is, because the
Church could not make its new-fangled system, which it called Christianity,
hold together without it. To have made Christ to die on account of an allegorical
tree would have been too barefaced a fable.
But the account, as it is given
of Jesus in the New Testament, even visionary as it is, does not support
the creed of the Church that he died for the redemption of the world. According
to that account he was crucified and buried on the Friday, and rose again
in good health on the Sunday morning, for we do not hear that he was sick.
This cannot be called dying, and is rather making fun of death than suffering
There are thousands of men and women
also, who if they could know they should come back again in good health
in about thirty-six hours, would prefer such kind of death for the sake
of the experiment, and to know what the other side of the grave was. Why
then should that which would be only a voyage of curious amusement to us,
be magnified into merit and suffering in him? If a God, he could not suffer
death, for immortality cannot die, and as a man his death could be no more
than the death of any other person.
The belief of the redemption of
Jesus Christ is altogether an invention of the Church of Rome, not the
doctrine of the New Testament. What the writers of the New Testament attempted
to prove by the story of Jesus is the resurrection of the same body from
the grave, which was the belief of the Pharisees, in opposition to the
Sadducees (a sect of Jews) who denied it.
Paul, who was brought up a Pharisee,
labors hard at this for it was the creed of his own Pharisaical Church:
I Corinthians xv is full of supposed cases and assertions about the resurrection
of the same body, but there is not a word in it about redemption. This
chapter makes part of the funeral service of the Episcopal Church. The
dogma of the redemption is the fable of priestcraft invented since the
time the New Testament was compiled, and the agreeable delusion of it suited
with the depravity of immoral livers. When men are taught to ascribe all
their crimes and vices to the temptations of the devil, and to believe
that Jesus, by his death, rubs all off, and pays their passage to heaven
gratis, they become as careless in morals as a spendthrift would be of
money, were he told that his father had engaged to pay off all his scores.
It is a doctrine not only dangerous
to morals in this world, but to our happiness in the next world, because
it holds out such a cheap, easy, and lazy way of getting to heaven, as
has a tendency to induce men to hug the delusion of it to their own injury.
But there are times when men have
serious thoughts, and it is at such times, when they begin to think, that
they begin to doubt the truth of the Christian religion; and well they
may, for it is too fanciful and too full of conjecture, inconsistency,
improbability and irrationality, to afford consolation to the thoughtful
man. His reason revolts against his creed. He sees that none of its articles
are proved, or can be proved.
He may believe that such a person
as is called Jesus (for Christ was not his name) was born and grew to be
a man, because it is no more than a natural and probable case. But who
is to prove he is the son of God, that he was begotten by the Holy Ghost?
Of these things there can be no proof; and that which admits not of proof,
and is against the laws of probability and the order of nature, which God
Himself has established, is not an object for belief. God has not given
man reason to embarrass him, but to prevent his being imposed upon.
He may believe that Jesus was crucified,
because many others were crucified, but who is to prove he was crucified
for the sins of the world? This article has no evidence, not even in the
New Testament; and if it had, where is the proof that the New Testament,
in relating things neither probable nor provable, is to be believed as
When an article in a creed does
not admit of proof nor of probability, the salvo is to call it revelation;
but this is only putting one difficulty in the place of another, for it
is as impossible to prove a thing to be revelation as it is to prove that
Mary was gotten with child by the Holy Ghost.
Here it is that the religion of
Deism is superior to the Christian Religion. It is free from all those
invented and torturing articles that shock our reason or injure our humanity,
and with which the Christian religion abounds. Its creed is pure, and sublimely
simple. It believes in God, and there it rests.
It honors reason as the choicest
gift of God to man, and the faculty by which he is enabled to contemplate
the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator displayed in the creation;
and reposing itself on His protection, both here and hereafter, it avoids
all presumptuous beliefs, and rejects, as the fabulous inventions of men,
all books pretending to revelation.
-Thomas Paine, "Of The Religion
Of Deism Compared With The Christian Religion"
Thirdly, from the pen of
John Adams, statesman, diplomat, member of the Continental Congress, signer
of the Declaration of Independence, Vice-President under Washington, and
Second President of the United States....
"As I understand the Christian
religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions
of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian
revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"
--- John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
"I almost shudder at the thought
of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the
history of mankind has preserved--the Cross. Consider what calamities that
engine of grief has produced!" --- John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson
"What havoc has been made of books
through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned
as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads
of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because
suspected of heresy? Remember the 'index expurgatorius', the inquisition,
the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine." --- John Adams, letter
to John Taylor
"The priesthood have, in all ancient
nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when
or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate
A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence,
the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated,
and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a
sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have
disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand,
and fly into your face and eyes." --- John Adams, letter to John Taylor
Fourthly, from the pen of
Thomas Jefferson, lawyer, philosopher, scientist and inventor, author of
the Declaration of Independence, Statesman and Diplomat, Secretary of State
under Washington and Adams, Third President of the United States, and the
mentor and the mind behind the Father of the Constitution and quite possibly
the most brilliant mind of the 18th century...or since....
"The clergy...believe that
any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition
to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar
of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of
man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their
opinion." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1800.
"In every country and every age,
the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the
despot ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man
into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the
safer engine for their purpose." --- Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio Spafford,
March 17, 1814
"Is uniformity attainable? Millions
of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity,
have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced
an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make
one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery
and error all over the earth." --- Thomas Jefferson, from "Notes on Virginia"
"Shake off all the fears of servile
prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly
in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question
with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he
must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
--- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787
"It is too late in the day for men
of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three
are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three
are not one. But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of
the priests." --- Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1803
"But a short time elapsed after
the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles
were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and
perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their
oppressors in Church and State." --- Thomas Jefferson to S. Kercheval,
"History, I believe, furnishes no
example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.
This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well
as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
--- Thomas Jefferson to Baron von Humboldt, 1813
"On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished
from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to
this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another,
for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely
beyond the comprehension of the human mind." --- Thomas Jefferson to Carey,
"But the greatest of all reformers
of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting
what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished
by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from
that as the diamond from the dunghill, we have the outlines of a system
of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man.
The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent
morality, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has
resulted from artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects (The
immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world
by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension,
his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement,
regeneration, election, orders of the Hierarchy, etc.) is a most desirable
object." --- Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, Oct. 31, 1819
"It is not to be understood that
I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist;
he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentence
toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem
Among the sayings and discourses
imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination,
correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again,
of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism
and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should
have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from
the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity
of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes
and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corruptor of
the doctrines of Jesus." --- Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, 1820
"The office of reformer of the superstitions
of a nation, is ever more dangerous. Jesus had to work on the perilous
confines of reason and religion; and a step to the right or left might
place him within the grasp of the priests of the superstition, a bloodthirsty
race, as cruel and remorseless as the being whom they represented as the
family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel.
That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God,
physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more
learned than myself in that lore." --- Thomas Jefferson to Story, Aug.
"The doctrines of Jesus are simple,
and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing
dogmas of Calvin.
1. That there are three
Creeds have been the bane of the Christian
church ... made of Christendom a slaughter-house." --- Thomas Jefferson
to Benjamin Waterhouse, Jun. 26, 1822
2. That good works, or the love
of our neighbor, is nothing.
3. That faith is every thing, and
the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit the faith.
4. That reason in religion is of
5. That God, from the beginning,
elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned;
and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter
save." --- Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, Jun. 26, 1822
"The truth is, that the greatest
enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors
of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy,
absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine
words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by
the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed
with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." ---
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823
"The metaphysical insanities of
Athanasius, of Loyola, and of Calvin, are, to my understanding, mere lapses
into polytheism, differing from paganism only by being more unintelligible."
--- Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 1820
Fifthly, from the pen of
James Madison, protege of Jefferson, chronicler of the Constitutional Convention
and Father of the Constitution, Fourth President of the United States....
"What influence, in fact,
have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they
have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority;
on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political
tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of
the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found
an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted
to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." --- James Madison, "A Memorial
and Remonstrance", 1785
"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical
establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion,
have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the
legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits?
More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance
and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
--- James Madison, "A Memorial and Remonstrance", 1785
And Finally we must note
that George Washington, surveyor, wealthy planter, fox hunting sportsman,
officer of the Virginia Militia, General of the Continental Army during
the War of Independence, President of the Constitutional Convention, and
First President of the United States was without a trace of Christianism.
He was so completely indifferent to its pious irascibilities that he never
appears to have made any comment on them. Indeed, he seemed, according
to the evidence, to have had no instinct or feeling for religion, although
he attended church twelve or fifteen times a year.
The name of Jesus Christ is not
mentioned even once in the vast collection of Washington's published letters.
He refers to Providence in numerous letters, but he used the term as a
synonym for Destiny or Fate. Bishop White, who knew him well for many years,
wrote after Washington's death that he had never heard him express an opinion
on any religious subject. He added that although Washington was "serious
and attentive" in church, he never saw him kneel in prayer.
Nevertheless, he believed in the
stabilizing power of religion. In his Farewell Address, which unquestionably
represents his most mature opinions, the name of God does not appear, but
he had a good word for religions, to wit: "Of all the dispositions and
habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable
He considered religion a matter
of policy. A few lines farther on in the same paragraph, he states, "Let
it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation,
for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are
the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with
caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without
Washington had the inestimable faculty
of being able to say nothing. He said nothing about religion -- nothing
very definite -- and as a deist was willing to let people think whatever
they pleased. As he never discussed religion at all, and went to church
only occasionally, he was considered by most people to be a quietly religious
man. It was somewhat of a shock, therefore, to the people of Philadelphia,
when the reverend Dr. Abercrombie, Washington's pastor, criticised him
from the pulpit. He told him that as President, he should not belong to
a church unless he could set a good example to others. He reminded Washington
that he never took communion, and in short, that his example was bad.
Washington listened to these reproaches
in silence, and never went to that church again. His only comment was that
he did not wish to annoy Dr. Abercrombie by his presence.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Last revised 12/28/97 Email Barefoot
Two mighty important things, Pardn'r, LOVE And PEACE